The first contest of the US Republican party presidential race was no contest at all as former US President Donald Trump won the Iowa caucus in a blowout Monday night, January 15— confirming his place as the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
Trump, 77, recorded the biggest margin of victory in the modern history of the Iowa GOP caucus, dating back to 1976, and became the first Republican candidate to get more than 50% support in a contested caucus.
With 97% of the expected vote in, Trump had 51.1% support, followed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (21.2%), former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (19.1%) and biotech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy (7.7%), who ended his campaign and gave Trump his support as the result became clear.
Trump won or led in 98 of the Hawkeye State’s 99 counties as of midnight Tuesday, with only Johnson County — the home of the University of Iowa at Iowa City narrowly denying him a clean sweep by barely going for Haley.
“I want to congratulate Ron and Nikki for having a good time together. We’re all having a good time together,” a notably low-key Trump said in his victory speech in Des Moines. “I think they both actually did very well. I really do. I think they both did very well.”
The 45th president then paid tribute to his late mother-in-law, Amalija Knavs, who died Jan. 9 saying she was “up there, way up there, she’s looking down and she’s so proud of us” — and made a call for unity among Americans.
“I really think this is time now for everybody in our country to come together. We want to come together — whether it’s Republican or Democrat or liberal or conservative,” said Trump, one of the most polarizing politicians in US history.
“It would be so nice if we could come together and straighten out the world and straighten out the problems and straighten out all of the death and destruction that we’re witnessing.”
With hundreds of caucus meetings across the Hawkeye State still in progress, media outlets called Trump the winner at 8:30 p.m. ET, with fewer than 10 precincts having reported their vote tallies to the Republican Party of Iowa.
The early projection of a Trump victory, which happened after caucus meetings had begun but before many actual votes had been cast, infuriated DeSantis who accused the press of unduly influencing the outcome.
“I spoke before [approximately] 400 Iowans today at a caucus site and DeSantis won,” the Florida governor’s campaign manager James Uthmeier wrote on X. “However, they were getting news alerts of a ‘Trump [sic] victory’ before speeches concluded or voting began.
“The media wants to taint this process and it’s sad for America. Wake up, everyone.”
DeSantis, who invested heavily in an Iowa ground game that failed to overcome the former president’s sheer popularity among voters, also referenced the early projection in his remarks to supporters in West Des Moines.
“They threw everything but the kitchen sink at us,” he said. “They spent almost $15 million attacking us … They even called the election before people got a chance to vote.”
“I am not going to make any excuses,” DeSantis added, “and I guarantee you this: I will not let you down.”